democracy Notes From Disgraceland politics

This Is Not An Economic Crisis With Social Consequences. It’s A Social Crisis With Economic Consequences.

"What is happening is not a financial crisis or an economic downturn caused by the endogenous workings and self-sabotage of the capitalist system."

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29. III 2020

We generally like to surround ourselves with intelligent people, people with whom we can discuss a variety of topics and problems and whose intellect and judgments we value. However, in situations of extreme stress and acute collective anxieties, situations that require intellectual honesty and courage, unconventional thinking, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone, we invariably discover that the number of people whose intellect continues to function turns out to be disappointingly small.

A large segment of nominally intelligent people (with high IQ, sharp intellect and cognitive skills) can reason only within a limited space inside well-defined boundaries. These intellectual boundaries designate both the habitual forms and attitudes of their mental apparatus, and the experiences of the mind and recognize these attitudes as falsely objectivized. Crossing those boundaries shuts off their cognitive capabilities and ability to reason. Outside of the deep waters of their intellectual comfort zone they are like stranded whales.

What happens to our thinking process in situations that expose our cognitive and intellectual incapacities, when extrapolations of our knowledge and experiences fail to provide meaningful guidance? How do we respond to a confrontation with the reality of failure — an absolute failure, which we cannot fail to recognize? Setting foot on intellectual terra incognita can be only managed by coming to terms with those incapacities.

Karl Jaspers recognized the singularity of these inflection points of reason, the Limit situations (Grenzsituationen), as the moments when intelligence boundaries are crossed. During the times of acute anxiety triggered by death, guilt, war, pandemics, or uncertainty of the world, the human mind confronts the restrictions and pathological narrowness of its existing forms and allows itself to abandon the security of its limitedness, and enters a new realm of self-consciousness. These are situations that require creation of a new set of values and standards and a new picture of the world and one’s sense of self in it. There is no turning back; the whole system of values must change[1].

Limit situation are unconditional moments of human existence in which reason is drawn by intense impulses, which impel it to expose itself to the limits of its consciousness and seek higher, more reflexive modes of knowledge. The unconditional (das Unbedingte) is an inflection point of reason in which reason encounters itself as conditional or limited and desires to transcend the limits of this form[2].

The unconditional moment is now. What is happening at the moment is not a financial crisis or an economic downturn caused by the endogenous workings and self-sabotage of the capitalist system. Rather, the present crisis is a reaction to an exogenous shock to the system with a compromised immunity, which is now unable to defend itself due to decades of self-abuse. This is not an economic crisis with social consequences, but a social crisis with economic consequences. While all previous recoveries were engineered around economic measures and financed by social deficits, the response to the present crisis requires a genuine social change — an entirely new value system and a novel way of thinking.

For decades now, the intrinsic incompatibility of capitalism and democracy has been the key driver of social change in the developed West. The most significant consequence of this tension has been a gradual but systematic transition of politics from free choice to free selection as a way of maintaining the status quo. The American political system, defined by the selection between two dominant parties has not been a democracy and expression of free will, but the realization of a dilemma ahead of selection between two alternatives: Drowning in the flood of arbitrariness or getting on board of the Ark of fools. People subjected to this principle of choice (who still defend this mode of political functioning as a democracy that is worth preserving) resemble people who consider it an outstanding privilege to choose whether they will jump through the window from the third floor or wait for the fifth[3].

Persistence of this mode of political participation and its streamlining in the last decade has led to a reshaping of the social landscape and, when seen in a wider context, history. Hegelian interpretation, which is appropriate for this particular moment, sees history as the process of moving toward the realization of human freedom, brought to life by the interaction of subjective consciousness and an objective sequence of events and their mutual influence on each other. In this framework, history is directional – there is an improvement from a more primitive condition of humanity to a more advanced (not only materially, but culturally and morally)[4]. Contradictions generated at one level are overcome or transcended at the next, and incorporated in a radically new form in the subsequent social change. Human freedom is one of the main parameters which determines the direction of history. History is seen as the realization of freedom by means of a series of successive enslavements to different kinds of necessity.

There is a distinct point of culmination where a higher level of society is achieved. That is the point at which history stops: Society has reached its apex beyond which further improvement is not possible. This is not a static configuration – time does not stop here. This is a dynamic configuration, which requires consistent maintenance and rebalancing. For Hegel, this was German Protestant society, for Marx it was communism[5].

We are now witnessing the beginning of the end of the Hegelian historical continuum. Free selection is now being reduced down to one option and we are free to embrace it or reject it. Downward distribution, universal basic income, comprehensive healthcare for all, widespread social welfare programs, government subsidies, and empathy – all those things that have faced decades of coordinated resistance, and have been on the verge of extinction, are now being endorsed and about to be distributed in size by their most vocal opponents of yesterday. We have finally achieved true freedom because true freedom is having no choice. This is the highest act of freedom — freely assuming what is otherwise necessary.

This is a realization of the Unconditional in its purest — a true transideological moment when, faced with the absurdity and obsolescence of the existing ideology, political subjects transcend their ideological confines and abandon the safety of ideology as they realize its imminent demise due to self-destruction.

What we learned in the last five decades of neoliberalism is that no change can happen without making serious concessions to those whose wrongdoings that change is supposed to correct. Every change has been one step forward and two steps back. The system absorbs each change, mutates, and emerges stronger and more resistant. Change triggers a quicksand effect. So, as long as change occurs in small steps – as long as a quasi-stationary state is maintained — change becomes impossible.

However, a real change is possible, but it cannot happen without a crisis, it must be triggered by an exogenous shock of substantial magnitude. The shock creates an Unconditional moment, which forces a paradigm shift and allows the system to self-destruct and die from an overdose of itself.

You can negotiate with reality, but not with the Real. When you encounter the Real, you act.

[1] Karl Jaspers: Basic Philosophical Writings, E. Ehrlich, L. H. Ehrlich and G. B. Pepper (ed.), Humanity Press NJ (1986)

[2] ibid.

[3] Borislav Pekic, How to Quiet a Vampire: A Sotie, Northwestern University Press (2003)

[4] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Hegel’s philosophy of history, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/history/

[5] ibid.

13 comments on “This Is Not An Economic Crisis With Social Consequences. It’s A Social Crisis With Economic Consequences.

  1. In other words, the market is highly overvalued. Amen

  2. Outer bound of our intelligence is denial or not worth while. The stock market was become the most amazing form of crony capitalism. It has now bean confronted. Wealth of Nation may replace greed of the individual.

  3. Mr. Oxygen

    Show me any person intellectual or not who has acted on the real and I will show you someone I want in the foxhole with me even if only in spirit. Show me a family member or friend who has acted on the real, and I will show you someone i want in the foxhole with me if only in heart and spirit. Most of those family who occupy my foxhole believed in something beyond the flesh and they bring no intellectual boundaries to the fight.

  4. Or, this entire “thought” piece is utter nonsense. “Real change” isn’t a thing. The nature of humanity is to organize into societies where the few have power and the many have none. Perhaps with a small-ish middle tier that has enough power to keep the masses in line without threatening the system.

    If, right now, we happen to find ourselves living through an exogenous shock that has created a crisis of such magnitude as to overthrow the current system built upon capitalism and free selection, we’re not going to find a new, freer society where everyone is (more) equal coming out the other side. Instead, we’ll find ourselves in a different system, with a different set of rules and norms, where there will still be a few on top and everyone else on the bottom. If we’re lucky, some of players at the top will get shuffled around and there will be some new blood in there. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    Also, this entire piece is written from a wildly Eurocentric perspective. It’s very difficult to look at the broad history of world and conclude that “history [is] the process of moving toward the realization of human freedom” or that “history is directional” and represents “an improvement from a more primitive condition of humanity to a more advanced”. A quick look at the history of Africa, the Middle East, Russia or China exposes the non-universality of that viewpoint. I can understand how a 19th century German philosopher would use the narrow lens of European history to analyze the arc of humanity, but someone writing in the 21st century ought to know better.

    • I think you may be right except the arc of history is a little longer perhaps, and even the writer of the piece is leaving out a step.
      This exogenous shock, like many others, forces people to find an answer in a leader who will fix everything for them first. People will abandon their freedoms for someone who will think for them, whether it be god or Trump. Witness the 15% bump in approval ratings for Trump’s handling of this crisis (WHO are these people, this 15% fooled into thinking daily press briefings equal leadership?)
      We may be in an intermediate period. It’s difficult to hold out any hope when those who need an authoritarian leader to think and act for them “cling to their guns and their religion” while the others demanding revolution cling to their smartphones.
      The guns may win for awhile.

  5. I too will celebrate this “unconditional moment” of uncertainty. The dialectical transition from democracy to kleptocracy required the anesthesia of global capital to keep the ethical Mind asleep. Now, with our own survival at stake and Mr. Business-As-Usual dead on the floor, we have the chance to assume personal responsibility for where we go from here–toward a new synthesis. To paraphrase, ” The fault , dear Heisenberg, is not in our System, but in ourselves that we are underlings.”

  6. I told you on the issue of statues commemorating Southern Civil War Heroes, be careful what you wish for. Wasn’t that what I told you?
    Anonymouscoward’s got it right.

  7. I was thinking of Harrara and his ideas about societal mythologies……Iour common myths might be in transition.

  8. Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
    What’s the real problem and the real solution to most of the world’s problems?
    THERE IS A MAJOR FLAW IN OUR GENETIC SEQUENCE!
    Humans can out breed and out think our available resources.
    We are the virus.

    That’s why I’m an ag-producer. If the human race is going to consume it’s way to self-extinction, I’m going to enjoy the ride.
    You eat werid food because there isn’t enough of the healthy stuff, you get weird hard to control diseases.

    Philisophical essay’s are a distraction on the way to oblivion.

  9. All this could probably be summed up in about three paragraphs… Not really certain what the author is really trying to say about HIMSELF in all of this.. Paragraph starting with “While all previous recoveries ” would be a starting point…..

  10. Day 9. I think. I awake yet again amid the fatigued dreariness of this lifeless quarantine. My tenuous grip on reality lets slip one more finger. I sense Madness drawing near. With daily mechanical conviction I turn to the scriptures of Heisenberg, but today they read like Arts and Letters Daily. Who am I

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